The ORU volleyball team begins its pursuit of a Southland Conference Championship today with the start of the conference tournament. A tournament win will put ORU in the NCAA Volleyball Playoffs starting in the beginning of December.
ORU will be the third seed in the Southland tournament and will take on Houston Baptist in the first-round game.
The team finished the regular season with a 22-6 record overall and a 14-4 record in Southland play.
The Golden Eagles have lost in the championship match the last two seasons and look to finish the season with a conference title this year.
“We have been second in conference tournament two times and we’ve got to be first this time,” said Bruna Silva, senior libero for the Golden Eagles. “We are going for it as hard as we can.”
Head coach Sheera Sirola said she expects to win the tournament.
“You have to play well,” said Sirola. “You have to play smart, and everything else will come. At this point, it’s game by game.”
Laura Taylor, setter for ORU, said the team’s goal is to bring home the championship.
“We definitely expect to go out and play hard,” Taylor said. “We obviously want to win, so we are working hard to achieve that goal.”
The team will look to send its seniors out with a championship win. It will be the last few games for Silva, Taylor, Jessica Pancratz, Luara Rosa and Stephanie Mab.
Both Taylor and Silva will leave their mark on the ORU record books. Taylor has 3,926 career assists, only 16 short of the ORU career assists record. Silva has 2,140 career digs, second in ORU history.
The 22 wins overall was the second-most for Sirola in her career as ORU volleyball head coach.
The season was highlighted by the win over Stephen F. Austin on October 3. ORU came back from a 2-1 deficit to win the match. Not only was it a match win, but it gave Sirola 200 wins as head coach.
ORU had another huge comeback exactly three weeks later. ORU was down 2-0 against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and down 16-6 in the third set. But ORU didn’t give up and came storming back to complete the comeback.
The team started the season with early tournament wins in the Texas Southern University Invitational and the El Paso Sports Commission Volleyball Invitational. In the two tournaments combined, ORU only lost one set.
Laura Taylor has been one of the most productive players on the team throughout the season. Sirola said she has been playing the best volleyball of her career.
Taylor has 1,023 assists this year, moving her up to second on the all-time career assists list; a mere 19 short of the school record.
Silva was the main player on defense. She had 511 digs during the season.
ORU’s offseason addition, Sara Pope, made a huge impact on the team. She has 353 kills, averaging 3.68 per set. Jessica Pancratz has the next most kills for ORU with 201, averaging just over two per set.